Cyndi Lauper shows she’s still so unusual, still so electrifying

By Jon Fassnacht

Girls just wanna have funk. And blues. And dulcimers.

At least that’s what Cyndi Lauper really wants.

The former pop princess showed she’s much deeper than her hits during a well-attended show Saturday night in the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.

The 58-year-old New Yorker was joined by New Orleans legend Dr. John for nearly three hours of what was billed as “From Memphis to Mardi Gras.”

Lauper’s backing quintet had quite the pedigree: The rhythm section featured alumni from Stax and Hi Records.

Four of the 14 songs performed were culled from last year’s “Memphis Blues,” an album of blues covers. Surprisingly, the songs didn’t sound out of place rubbing shoulders with the likes of “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.”

That had much to do with the re-imagined arrangements.

Hits “All Through The Night,” “Time After Time” and “True Colors” were led by Lauper on a dulcimer, while “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” included an extended gospel intro.

Lauper was a magnetic presence, rolling around the stage during “She Bop,” sultrily slinking through the opening of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Lead Me On,” unleashing a tribal dance during a drum break and leading the crowd on a call-and-response during “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” while standing on one of the seats.

Unfortunately, in a case of bitter irony, a scuffle broke out in the crowd during her cover of “What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye’s ode to peace.

Dr. John – or, according to Lauper, “Dr. Jah-won” – couldn’t have gotten the evening off to a better start. There may have been a doctor in the house, but the music was sick, so swampy you could almost feel the humidity.

Wearing a red pinstripe suit and sunglasses, the gravelly voiced 70-year-old looked like Hank Williams Jr.’s cooler brother.

He switched back and forth from a piano and a Hammond organ, and even showed off some guitar skills.

The tight quintet tore through 75 minutes of funk, blues and rock, closing with two duets with Lauper: the standard “Makin’ Whoopie” and the spiritual “Glory, Glory Hallelujah.”

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